This is how to revolutionise fashion education
By Steve Salter
In 2018 the University of Westminster announced the appointment of Professor Andrew Groves as Professor of Fashion Design. Over the last 15 years, Andrew has led a radical rethink of how fashion education is delivered and helped transform fashion education at the University of Westminster and beyond. In the last three years alone, he has launched the Westminster Menswear Archive, the world’s only publicly accessible menswear archive, developed the MA Menswear programme, the world’s first and only two-year menswear course, and has aligned the BA Fashion Design course with the international fashion calendar, which meant that it became the first undergraduate course to be invited to show on the official London Fashion Week schedule. “Professor Andrew Groves has enhanced the standing and effectiveness of fashion at the University of Westminster immeasurably,” Sarah Mower MBE, chief critic for Vogue and the British Fashion Council’s Ambassador for Emerging talent, explained in the press release. “I often think that BA students graduating from Westminster are as accomplished as post-graduates from many other places,” she added. Sarah’s right. Recent alumni include i-D favourites and LFW regulars Ashley Williams, Liam Hodges and Claire Barrow, but industry heavyweights including Christopher Bailey, Vivienne Westwood, and Stuart Vevers all studied there too. To celebrate his appointment, Professor Groves shares an 11-step guide that looks to solve the challenges fashion education faces today and encourages the students of tomorrow to make the most of their time at university.
1. The biggest challenge we face is the diversity of students applying to university... “Fashion education used to be free, which made for an entirely different power dynamic between students and staff. The changes in education policy in the last 20 years -- that started under Tony Blair in 1998 with fees being introduced -- means we’ve lost generations of students from poor working-class backgrounds that haven't applied to study as they don’t think they can afford university. How do we create an environment that encourages those young people to believe they can be part of this industry and that we desperately need them? It's no coincidence that both Galliano and McQueen were from working-class backgrounds. Historically the designers that force us to radically re-see the world around us almost always come from marginalised backgrounds. Art schools were not designed to be middle-class finishing schools.” 2. The key to successful learning is failure... “If you don’t fail, you don't learn. I often use the Samuel Beckett quote: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” When students come to us, however, they have been taught that they must not fail, that failure is wrong, or that they have paid all this money so how have we ‘allowed’ them to fail. I think so many young people have not had the chance to deal and learn from failure, and so don’t have the resilience to deal with situations when they don’t go the way that they had hoped or planned.”